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Freezing Tomatoes: + Freezer Basil Pesto Recipe

Freezing Tomatoes: + Freezer Basil Pesto Recipe
Home » Preserving Food » How to freeze tomatoes + recipe for tomato sauce

It’s always bittersweet to see the tomato season end in October (in Minnesota). Relief that the harvesting for the market is over, but sorrow that the fresh bounty is coming to an end. Freezing tomatoes, whole or as a sauce, can keep that fresh flavor going all Winter however. Here’s a few tips plus a bonus recipe for basil pesto that also freezes well.

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Freezing Whole Tomatoes
Best for Winter Sauces
More Preserving Methods

Baskets of heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market
Baskets of heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market

Preserving Tomatoes Whole:

For simplicity, there’s nothing quite like freezing whole tomatoes.  All I do is wash and pat dry the tomatoes, pop them into gallon-sized freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible, and throw them in the freezer. 

Plastic bag with smoked tomatoes, dated  and labeled in preparation for freezing.
Freezer bag of smoked Roma tomatoes

I’ve read suggestions to peel them first, but I find that the skins pull off easily as they thaw and/or cook, and with the peel on, they are more easily separated when removed from the freezer. 

I primarily freeze Roma tomatoes since I tend to use them in pasta sauces, chili, and other dishes in which their meatier nature is a plus, but any variety can be frozen whole. 

Because slicer-type of tomatoes have more water and juice in them, the skins will pull off the Roma types much easier without losing the tomato meat.

Another excellent way to preserve whole tomatoes is by canning them. This step by step for canning whole tomatoes makes it simple so you don’t waste any of these delicious, versatile fruit!

Freezing Tomatoes for Sauces or Salsas

If you have the time to make large batches of tomato sauces, this is another way to preserve the bounty. A little more work on the front end, but less work in the winter when you pull out a bag of frozen sauce ready-to-go.

My go-to freezer tomato sauce is this Mediterranean Freezer Tomato Sauce with Sumac recipe.

Tomato sauce with companion plants of tomato and basil
Mediterranean Tomato Sauce for the Freezer

Then pull out your frozen tomato sauce in the Winter and use in this robust Italian Puttanesca.

When you are sorting end-of-season tomatoes for preservation, keep in mind the tomatoes that work best for sauces.

Preserving your Basil as a Frozen Pesto

Basil is another end-of-summer harvest to freeze, as the basil purchased in summer at the farmers’ markets is much cheaper and fresher than what you can get at the store in winter.

Basil freezes well when made into a pesto, as it doesn’t discolor as much as when it is frozen alone.

Jar of classic pesto made with fresh basil.
Jar of classic pesto made with fresh basil.

Recipe for Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto for Freezing

Jar of classic pesto made with fresh basil.
This recipe for basil pesto is from Marcella Hazan and is a classic Italian pesto that freezes well.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes



  • 2 Cups tightly packed basil leaves
  • ½ Cup of olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt to taste
  • ½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan and
  • 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated Romano added before serving.
  • 3 Tablespoons butter room temperature


  • Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly DRY with paper towels.
    2 Cups tightly packed basil leaves
  • Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency.
    ½ Cup of olive oil, 3 Tablespoons of pine nuts, 2 garlic cloves, salt to taste
  • If you are making the pesto for the freezer cover it at this point with a layer of olive oil and do not add the cheese and butter.
    The cheese and butter will be added when it is thawed and before serving.
  • When ready to use pesto in your meal, first thaw it out.
    Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand. When the cheese has been thoroughly mixed in with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.
    ½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan and, 3 Tablespoons butter, 2 Tablespoons of freshly grated Romano added before serving.
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Purchased Tomato Jams, Sauces & Tomato Mustard:

Of course, if you want to turn the preserving over to someone else, you can always purchase a Smoked Tomato Jam, a Romesco Sauce, a Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup, or a smoked tomato mustard from our online store (HeathGlen)

Other Methods for Preserving Summer’s Produce:

Recipe for Marcella Hazan’s Basil Pesto

Recipe Rating

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Lesley Hey

Saturday 18th of June 2016

Can I use plastic containers?

dorothy stainbrook

Monday 9th of September 2019

Sure Lesley. Just leave some headspace in whatever container you use as the contents will expand in the freezer.

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